Cookies… Nom Nom Nom
Long gone are the days where advert and TV programs kept distinct and separate but now in the world of TV from past few years in the US and recently in UK there is product placement.
Inspired to write this article as I was recently watching a repeat of The Big Bang Theory on (Good old E4) where Sheldon fills in an online dating profile for penny to find her a date to get her away from the online mass participation game she was glued too. Apart from this i noticed… Sheldon using a Dell XPS with stickers stuck around the logo to make it look customized while penny is using Dell that is pink. Not forgetting the carefully arranged ‘Red Bull’ cans that penny might have drunk to fuel her game play. All tactically designed to drop brand names on to the screens. To target the type of audience they think would like or buy the product.
The same with web browsing driven targeted adverts aka behavioural targeting that is already being used by Google advertisements shown in Gmail – targeting the adverts depending on the content of the email. There are numerous brands out there that do something similar with help of cookies.
Cookies are tiny files (4 kilobyte) and web browsers are not required to keep more than 20 cookies per web server. Typically a cookie retains user data for use across the web pages or re-visits to the website. They are useful in helping the visitor receive a customised experience without continually fetching data from the server.
They are useful but they are also used for behavioural advertising – that the people should be notified about that is their web browsing is being tracked to customise adverts see examples below.
As you see from the two examples one above and one below both situation was either looking at products at the republic store or searching for flights to Orlando before I went to a web page to read an article irrelevant to the products/searches but adverts appear with content that I browsed before – coincidence? Well no! bearing in mind of all the thing mentioned already in this article about cookies, adverts customised to content around it. May not be helpful if you browsing a present for someone and then it shows suggestions for the family member using the internet on your computer of the products you have browsed.
The problem for me is not really that it is giving me adverts that i would be genuinely be interested in buying but the consent by me to the advertiser to track my browsing, when was it OK in on the internet to be tracked especially by advertisers. These advertiser do offer opt-out options but you have to make sure the cookies are enabled and not deleted or you would have to opt out again from ad tracking. It is also well hidden inside the help section of the respective advertisers sites, which I also find frustrating.
There are solutions coming out like Firefox ‘Do Not Track’ built directly into the web browser. Even the EU demanding websites to make visitors opt-in for using cookies but I don’t think that is the way as it goes against the point of a cookie to keep things simple as a data store instead they should get visitors to opt-in to behavioural advertising via the browser setting making it permanent choice or until the user changes browser options. Advertisers forced to agree with whatever the browser setting is chosen like Firefox ‘Do Not Track’.
Now you know… What do you think of this? Did you know this already occurs? Please comment/share below your thoughts.
I set my browser to clear all cookies on exit and don’t accept third-party cookies. You can see what Google’s advertising has learned about your interests at http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/view
Excellent suggestion, I forgot to add suggestion on measures that can be taken to avoid behavioural cookies. Will update article later.